On building a high school: A look back at TMHS’s first year

Teachers look back in the school’s 10-year anniversary


2011 Staff Photo

The original 2011-2012 TMHS staff photo. While some members have left the school, some teachers have stayed to watch the school reach its first decade.

Haley Kilcoyne, Staff Writer

Amid a decade dominated by grunge, the return of mom jeans and the release of the first iPad, the impending population explosion in a little town in Texas necessitated new space for the students of Tomball High School.

“It was absolutely packed,” THS alumni Britley Smithson said. “The classrooms and hallways were totally crowded.”

To help the sardine-packed kids, a new school in the southern part of the district – Tomball Memorial – opened in 2011. To obtain a staff for the new school, THS teachers received questionnaires to decide if they wanted to stay or go.

“I remember when they said which school do you want to go to, I chose TMHS and I drew things around it like ‘pick me this is where I want to go’,” science teacher Cassondra Bulaclac said.

Save for TMHS’s coaches, nearly all its original staff were from THS.

“I knew everybody who was doing the choosing,” Bulaclac said. “And they knew. We had been talking about this for years. So everyone knew I was coming down here – no matter what.”

The familiar staff seemed like a blessing for the new wildcats, who dropped into a brand new school, with a brand new layout, only had a summer to get ready for opening day.

“I really loved it back then when we got to start something from scratch,” English teacher Janet Stackhouse said. “We had this beautiful building and this vision and it was really fun to build something from the ground up, but it was hard. That first year we didn’t even know where to get paperclips when we ran out.”
The original staff credits Carol Houston, TMHS’s first principal, with helping smooth the process along and lay the foundation for the school. Houston laid down the TMHS tenets and began most of Memorial’s administration traditions.

By the time the sophomores became seniors, TMHS teachers had nearly taught them for all four years of high school.”

The staff, meanwhile, remade their classes, lesson plans and departments. Many said it had been difficult, but it taught them valuable lessons that helped them get ready for the 2020 school year.

“Moving from Tomball to Memorial helped prepare us for this, even though we didn’t think this would ever happen,” Ly said. “The move helped us grow. It helped us try new things.”

The crash-course in adapting helped make them all flexible. It’s part of the reason why nearly all the departments tweak their curriculum each year.

“We’re willing to adjust and adapt and change. And when we change for the better, we keep it. We keep it and don’t go back to something that didn’t work,” Ly said.

Nearly unrecognizable now, the original curriculums revolved around TMHS’s first batch of students – THS’s freshman and sophomore classes, who barely made a population of 800 kids. Compared to 2020’s group of 2600, the school featured no portables, no floating teachers and miniscule class sizes

“Our first classes were very small, maybe 9-15 kids,” world geography teacher Angela Brock said. “We all knew it would never happen again.”

In the years that followed, TMHS rapidly increased in population. The school jumped from a small 4A to a 6A school in just under 10 years. The only thing to increase as fast as the population was the school’s academic achievements, racking up National Merit scholars, Scholastic wins and UIL state medals.

“Memorial has a very different feeling than Tomball High School.” said Stackhouse. “There’s a level of seriousness and level of high expectations from kids and administration. Success breeds success.”

Success, it seemed, started all the way back in 2011 with the first class. By the time the sophomores became seniors, TMHS teachers had nearly taught them for all four years of high school, starting from their freshman year at Tomball and continuing in TMHS.

While most of the teachers agree that all graduations are special and bittersweet, the first one was moreso.

“Our first senior year was exciting. I taught those seniors as freshmen in Tomball and I taught them again as sophomores and I worked with them as seniors,” Stackhouse said. “They were the kids we got the first prom and the first senior superlative stuff and the first graduation. It’s a year that definitely stands out.”

Despite teaching here for 10 years and seeing graduation class after graduation class leave TMHS’s white and navy halls, the first two batches of seniors have stuck with the original staff.

“I’m still sometimes contacted by old students,” Brock said. “I’ve even been on international student trips with some of my former students.”

TMHS’s remaining original teachers have plans to stay with the school until it’s their time to go. Until then, however, they’re perfectly fine spending another 10 years as Wildcats.